After years of hype, carriers have spent the last several months
turning on their 5G networks. It's supposed to change your life with its revolutionary speed,
but for now, the deployments remain limited, so don't be surprised if you're
nowhere near the service. For 5G, as with any technology, give it some time. Between the end of 2018 through the first few months of this year,
the carriers were racing to claim some sort of "first." Verizon and AT&Tlaunched their mobile 5G networks, while KT said a robot in South Korea was its first 5G
customer. Sprint turned on its network in June, followed
shortly thereafter by T-Mobile. UK carrier EE was the first in its country to turn on 5G.
What is 5G?
It's the next (fifth)
generation of cellular technology, and it promises to greatly enhance the
speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks. How fast are we
talking? Verizon's network showed speeds surging past 1 gigabit per second.That's 10 to 100 times
speedier than your typical cellular connection, and even faster than anything
you can get with a physical fiber-optic cable going into your house. (In
optimal conditions, you'll be able to download a season's worth of Stranger
Things in seconds.
Is it just about speed?
One of the key benefits is something called low latency. You'll hear this term a
lot. Latency is the response time between when you click on a link or start
streaming a video on your phone, which sends the request up to the network, and
when the network responds, delivering you the website or playing your video.That
lag time can last around 20 milliseconds with current networks. It doesn't seem
like much, but with 5G, that latency gets reduced to as little as 1
millisecond, or about the time it takes
for a flash on a normal camera. That
responsiveness is critical for things like playing an intense video game in virtual
reality or for a surgeon in New York to control a pair of robotic arms
performing a procedure in San Francisco, though latency will still be affected
by the ultimate range of the connection. The virtually lag-free connection
means self-driving cars have a way to communicate with each other in real time
-- assuming there's enough 5G coverage to connect those vehicles.
How does it work?
initially used super-high-frequency spectrum, which has shorter range but
higher capacity, to deliver a massive pipe for online access. Think of it as a
glorified Wi-Fi hotspot. But
given the range and interference issues, the carriers are also using
lower-frequency spectrum -- the type used in today's networks -- to help ferry
5G across greater distances and through walls and other obstructions. Sprint
claims it has the biggest 5G network because it's using its 2.5 gigahertz band
of spectrum, which offers wider coverage. T-Mobile plans a bigger rollout of its 5G
network in the second half thanks to the use of even lower-band spectrum. And AT&T
says it plans to offer 5G coverage nationwide over its lower-band Sub-6
spectrum in early 2020.
result is that the insane speeds companies first promised won't always be
there, but we'll still see a big boost from what we get today with 4G LTE.
Can't I just pick up 5G
with my existing smartphone?
no. 5G technology requires a specific set of antennas to tap into specific
bands. For instance, Sprint's LG V50 is specifically tuned for its 5G network. Likewise, the
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G is tuned for Verizon's network and its millimeter wave
of the phones will use Qualcomm's X50 modem, which is designed specifically to tap into
specific 5G bands. Later phones will use a second-generation chip that picks up more spectrum
can expect more 5G phones to launch later this year, with phones able to ride
on different networks coming out in mass in 2020.